Tuesday 14th July: Hue
We woke to a quiet, hot, sunny and very humid morning. I went to the gym for a while and then caught up with the boys at the pool. We basically hung around the hotel swimming and reading all morning. This was not hard to do; with sunshine and views over the river and of the beautiful old colonial building that was our hotel. We were preserving ourselves for the guided tour we were taking later in the afternoon. It’s not the heat that is so draining, although that is significant at around 35 C, but more so the humidity. It is debilitating.
Our guide collected us at 2pm. The boys were quite sun-burnt and Tom was not a happy camper. Any way, it was only until 6pm so, off we set. Our first stop was a 10min drive to the south west of the city to one of the ancient tombs of the Kings from the Nguyen Dynasty (1802 – 1945). Tu Duc was the 4th King and his mausoleum was set out on landscaped acres complete with many monuments, paved areas and beautiful lakes and streams. The poor guy had 104 wives and many concubines but unfortunately no children. Luckily for him though, he commissioned the building of this tomb during his lifetime and thus was able to enjoy the serene space for many years before his death.
From the tomb we went on to visit the ancient Citadel built in 1804, fortified home to the many Nguyen Kings. The citadel is surrounded by 10km of red brick wall with 4 main gates and comes complete with mote, cannons, watch towers, halls and palaces and an inner Forbidden City style sanctum. This site remained fairly unscathed by bombing during the American war but was ravaged by fire in some parts. An extensive restoration program is underway though.
Our last stop was to the Thien Mu Pagoda, 4km downstream and across from our hotel. I now know that a Pagoda is reserved for the worship of Buddha only whereas Temples allow the worship of Buddha, family and just about any cause. This particular Pagoda was home to about 40 monks ranging from as young as 7yrs old. We were fortunate enough to see many of them relaxed and going about their normal routine; at worship, hanging around their living area and while they were dining. Tom was particularly taken by quite a large group of Monks who were all about his age. The younger Monks sleep without a mattress on a hard wooden base!
We caught a river boat back to our hotel from the Pagoda; a trip of about 15 minutes. The Perfume River is so named as it draws water from the mountains west of Hue and runs through areas previously supporting cinnamon and sandalwood plantations. We discovered that the couple running the boat lives on board with their daughter. Their ‘shower’ is the river and they have a small area set aside as a kitchen. I asked about a toilet but our guide simply laughed. I think I know why he no longer swims in the river as he did when he was a child. This experience was cause for yet another guilty reminder of just how fortunate we all are living in Australia.
Once back at the hotel we headed straight to the pool to cool off whilst the sun was starting to set. We dined at the hotel restaurant, Le Parfum, which was magnificent before the boys headed off for the obligatory game of pool. I am pleased to advise the Tom now can beat Mark!